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Ropley Art Installations Inc.

We’re into one of those periods where it might seem to the untrained eye that there’s a bit of a lull going on, as bits have stopped magically appearing on the Bulleid coach. They’re funny times, and sometimes a little frustrating even to us who know that actually, we’re just working through bits that will suddenly all go together in a blaze of glory!

On Bulleid coach 1456 we’ve had delivery of lots of components, such as window frames and panels. These all need painting with three coats; primer, undercoat and gloss (with an occasional fourth (or should that be pre-first?!) of a rust converter before the primer). This takes time, and has led to some imaginative placement and hanging of drying items, often looking like something dragged out of the Tate modern! We’ve been concentrating on the window frames at the moment, but will be moving on to panels soon.

Speaking of panels, the main window panels require a bit of soldering before they’re painted, which is something we’ve been experimenting with. The solder forms the joint between the panel and the frame, making it watertight but also giving a nice smooth finish. It’s proved a bit tricky, but after a few practices and asking around, we think we’re on the right track now. The material is very thin, so welding isn’t an option, as the heat generated would horribly distort things. A filler is too brittle and would quickly crack and fall out with the flex of the carriage. Especially in these wooden carriages, there is a surprising amount of flex, and much like one of my favourite bands (Led Zeppelin, if you come and volunteer in the carriage shop be prepared to hear quite a lot of them…), we need to keep things tight but loose.

The main area of manufacture at the moment is the roof. As you’ll see from the photos accompanying this blog, Gordon and I have been busy making the new supports (we’ve nicknamed them hoops), which bolt to the metal bearers, allowing the roof boards to screw in. The old hoops are split and rotten, meaning replacement is essential. Having stripped most of the roof off, we’ve had the expert bare metal stripping team on the case, this time with some altitude. George and Co. have got the metal hoops up to gloss in record time, and hopefully next week we can start replacing the roof. The boards themselves are also in the workshop, forming another of our art installations, as they’re also being painted. The old ones weren’t, and this added to their decay. We’re actively trying to protect every component as much as possible, as until we get our carriage storage shed (are you reading secret millionaire?!) these coaches will need all the help they can get.

On the metalwork front, things are moving very well. Sir Christopher of Yates has been in blacksmithing mode, making nicely shaped brackets that the carriage end steps go on, but then also forming the treads on the steps themselves. One of our volunteers (also called Chris!) has been doing a sterling job on the doors for the carriage. As with everything on the carriage, the bottoms were rotten. Chris is doing a lovely job of rebuilding the bottom of the doors, I hadn’t even realised he was working on them till I stumbled across him doing it one day!

Over on the MK 1, things are proceeding well, floor supports are going in, preparations for steam heating work are in hand, and the gangway faceplates have come off. Rob hadn’t done them before, but a quick google and a chat to old colleagues and he said “no problem”, good work Rob!


Finally, we’ve had another consignment of Lazy Susans from “Graham the lathe”, so if you fancy one (click here to see photograph), give us a shout at carriageshop.mhr@gmail.com, £35 a pop and all proceeds going to the Canadian Pacific project,

Thanks for reading!



Please help support the progress of the Canadian Pacific project to bring back our flagship steam locomotive and two Bulleid carriages back to life by clicking here.  You can do this by Sponsoring a Stay or making a donation. Don't forget that we need to raise funds to complete the overhaul, especially as a new firebox is costing an extra £120,000, so all support is very much needed and appreciated. To sign up to the newsletter, please click here.

Photo gallery

  • When a coach is shunted out, it’s all hands on deck with a broom!

  • Art installation 1 – window frames

  • Art installation 2 – Roof boards

  • An old, split roof hoop

  • Cutting a new one to size on a jig

  • First trial fit of new roof hoop

  • Door repairs

  • New steps in place

  • Gordon working in the MK1

  • Rob taking the gangway faceplate off

  • Our newest volunteer, bit of a prickly customer

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